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2 mos ago
Current Dook In Peace, Simon! <3
4 likes
2 mos ago
@Tate, Joker is a simp and doesn't deserve any of them, you totally ship with your favorite.
2 mos ago
I'm so sorry to hear that, Restless. I have two fur noodles myself and I know how bonded we can get with them, it's awful to see them go through that. Sending happy dook energy Simon's way. <3
6 likes
2 mos ago
RPG is a dumpster fire these days, glad I came out of retirement in time to warm up by it... it was cold and lonely before. Tea, anyone?
1 like
9 mos ago
I'm officially retiring from roleplaying and the guild. It's been real, see you around!
6 likes

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Most Recent Posts



@Plank Sinatra@TootsiePop@GhostMami

While AJ, Aleks, and Chris bantered with each other over fresh bread and spiced olive oil for dipping, the lunch crowd of Rao’s began to populate the restaurant. For the first time since this morning it was starting to feel like the road trip vacation of a lifetime that this summer was meant to be. The boys were comfortable, having let their guard down without the trappings of any post-high school drama weighing on them. They were laughing perhaps a bit too loud and boisterous for such a nice restaurant, yet no one shushed them or even looked twice. The ambiance and attitude of Vegas was all around them — it seemed that anything goes here, and it felt fucking awesome.

Having been previously consumed with a bout of ‘hanger’, Chris ordered an appetizer as soon as their waiter showed up to take their drink order. It seemed a shame to come to an italian restaurant famous for their meatballs without ordering said meatballs, so that is what Chris got as a starter. Munching happily on what was probably the best meatball that he would ever eat in his entire life, he offered a close-lipped grin at his friends with a stupidly euphoric expression. “Fucking delicious,” he said after swallowing a massive bite. “So, we’re here, we’re eating. What’s next on the agenda? How are we going to spend our first day, and night in Sin City?”

AJ’s chosen appetizer was bruschetta. Something his mom would usually get whenever they got Italian. For the most part, the host with the most wasn’t too picky, but he did have a pattern of getting things he was used to having, meaning ordering food his family preferred. It wasn’t that he didn’t crave anything or have urges, he just liked the familiarity of it all.

If his friends didn’t know by now, they would surely know by the end of this trip that little boy Tyler wasn’t good with change, hence the whole ‘last summer of our lives’ voyage across the country. Worries aside, he was finally able to focus on the moment and enjoy his time with some of the best guys on the planet. Yes, Aleks included. AJ’s excitement was not even close to Chris’ level, which made everything worth it in his book.

Half smiling, he watched his Valentine blissfully eat, like he never ate before. Finally, someone was feeling the vibes AJ was hoping he could get everyone to embrace. Sadly, the road trip started with drama. He could only hope the rest of the day would sail smoothly. Munching on Bruschetta topped with tomato salad, caramelized balsamic vinegar, and Grana Padano, he came to terms with how… ordinary Sin City was to him. To others, like Chris, this was a place to have wild and reckless adventures of a lifetime. To be surrounded with good people and wake up not remembering half the shit you did the night prior. To him, this was the third most visited place on his list. The other two being the roads of LA and his father’s go-to-campsite. Although the city didn’t excite him like it did when he was little, he did like seeing his friend enjoy himself.

“Wherever you want.” AJ shrugged at Chris’ question. He wasn’t necessarily the planner type. He was the idea guy. He brought something into existence, like this road trip, or passing through Las Vegas, and he’d let his friends take the wheel, while he cruised with no hands. “There’s a bunch of cabaret shows, so that’s a thing we could do. I think you’d like the zombie one, but I still want to see what everyone else is into.” Munch. Munch. Munch. Waving his bruschetta around as he talked, he cooly admitted, “I’m going with the flow, let people do what they want, pick and choose, you dig? There’s a lot happening, and I’ve been here PLENTY, so whatever you want, do it, man. With friends, of course, but you get what I mean!”

Aleks carefully rolled the tiniest of his ciabatta crostinis over his knuckles like a coin, mouth tugged up at one end in an amused little smile at Chris’ happiness. The decision to pick the restaurant was a double edged sword, a high-risk, high-reward scenario where he could have either disgraced his father’s name by acting like a jackass or brought his friends to a restaurant they were only okay with. At that point he might as well have taken them to a fucking Burger King. But thankfully everything had worked out.

He had mostly finished with his roasted peppers and mozzarella, and was now picking off the last, precious few of his lovingly-toasted crostini, careful to portion out his olive oil and remaining pine nuts for each. The one he was playing with like it was a quarter must have been the very crust end of a ciabatta, so he was careful not to overload it with portions before he ate it whole. He chewed over AJ’s hands-off declaration and swallowed before responding.

“Chloe and I saw the cabaret last year,” he said with a small shrug. “She wanted to go to the strip club. I see no reason to disenfranchise her. I could use something sleazy for a change. But that seems like denouement for the evening. As for pre-game…”

The token foreigner of the group narrowed his catlike eyes a little at Chris, head tilting sideways and teeth scraping his lip in thought.

“You know much about the cards, Chrissy?”

“Cabaret sounds fun, that’s the show with the girls dancing in lingerie with the big feathers and stuff, right? But there’s a zombie one? Sounds hot… I’m down.” Chris pondered as he finished up his appetizer and perused the menu for a main course option. He listened as Aleks said that he and Chloe would be skipping out on the cabaret, but Chris was still set on going. He could go to a strip club anywhere, the cabaret sounded like a more unique Vegas experience. Speaking of Vegas experiences, “Cards?” Chris responded to Aleks with a raised brow. “I played a poker phone game a while back, but that’s about it. Why? You lookin’ to teach me how to make a pretty penny while we’re here?”

Aleks shrugged innocently.

“I may have a little knowledge to impart,” he said simply. “If you had the patience to listen and learn, I could front you some training wheels money tonight. Although Chloe may yet wind up making both of us look like bitches..”

“I’ll pass with gambling.” AJ’s father had poker night with his friends bi-weekly, and AJ didn’t really like losing money in a game he didn’t have a high percentage in winning. He didn't have full confidence with card playing and he couldn’t count cards like some people. Racing was one thing, but cards? Nah man. “Knowing Ava and Rey…. they’ll drag poor Emi somewhere. I’mma stalk Em until I know she’s safe.” Ever since the break up, she’s been a hot mess and AJ couldn’t help but feel partially to blame. He withheld information, in hopes that she could find out the right way, through Brandon, but looking back… he probably should’ve told her. It’s as if he let it happen. Like he could’ve stopped the cheating, he could’ve protected her heart, but he didn’t. “There’s a few shows for whatever Cabaret we decide to go to! So, yeah, we can catch one later, for sure.”

In time, their waiter did come by and take their order. To AJ, while the calm was welcomed, it did unsettle him. The moment they leave this restaurant, things would move again and there was bound to be another explosion. He just didn’t understand why it was so hard for everyone to set their differences aside and get along. Hell, he was putting up with two pain in his asses! Reyna and now Katie. With high hopes, he believed tonight would be the night that would make people feel like this trip was worth it. They are worth it. At least, he could imagine.

After finishing a fantastic meal, Chris had to stretch from his fingers to his toes to feel human. He was a bit uncomfortably full for a lunch, but the meal was worth every bite. “So, casino and cabaret. Sounds like a fun night. Remind me… why do we have to go to the store right now?”

Aleks exhaled patiently, hands in the pockets of his jacket as he gently pushed in his chair with the tip of a sneaker. He supposed this hadn’t been covered while Chris was locked in Gotterdammerung with the receptionist downstairs at the Bellagio, but still, he found everyone’s exhaustion over the thought of so much as entering a convenience store a little taxing. Life had been very easy for them, having the fastest Uber Eats driver in LA for a friend. He had gone years without demanding tips from these paltry bastards, the least they could do was humor him for a couple bottles of Hershey’s.

“Chocolate syrup is a good addition to White Russian,” he reiterated, repeating what he’d told AJ earlier at the flat. “I need a few bottles if I’m going to make cocktails tonight. If you have a cute name I am all ears.”

“We’re going to the store so that you can make alcoholic choccy milk?” Chris confirmed with a teasing tone. “Shall we pick up sippy cups as well, then?” The right side of his mouth lifted in a half smirk.

”If you would like yours in one, yes.”

“Man I can’t drink milk, I ain’t about to spend our first night in Vegas on the shitter.”

Looking between his two friends, AJ narrowed his eyes in confusion while grabbing his debit card from the waiter, “...what is wrong with sippy cups?” Like it was just a cup? They were being judgy toward dishware. Waht.

“Oh my god…” Chris groaned at AJ’s comment and then said something in tagalog under his breath. He pushed open the door of the 7-Eleven that was around the corner from the restaurant and hoped that this conversation would be taken away with the breeze it generated. While Alek’s goal was chocolate syrup, Chris went to the snacks aisle to grab a few handfuls of stuff for munching at the hotel once everyone was drunk off of Aleks’... brown russians? That... probably wasn’t pc, but he had one even better. “Hey, what about Cocoa Commies?” Chris yelled the name suggestion over the aisle divider to his friend.

As Chris and Aleks went their own way, AJ was left at the slurpee stand. After hooking his sunglasses on his shirt, he debated what flavor he should try. Truth be told, he never had one. He’s heard only good things about these sugary-sweet-heart-attack drinks, yet it was rare for AJ to do his own errands or go to a 7-eleven. Therefore, he never needed one. Too distracted by the debate in his head, he didn’t hear the resounding sound of heels, with just the right balance of femininity and practicality. A woman with one hell of a rack leaned beside him and whispered, “Wild cherry is my favorite. Mm, but you look like a coke boy.”

Glancing over, AJ was taken aback. Was it natural for someone this… sexy to be in a 7-Eleven? Maybe he should come more often! Unable to answer her, he watched her lips as they sucked a red lollipop. Her face matched her body incredibly well. She was like a goddess, who didn’t belong here.

He would’ve thanked her, but he was so stunned he couldn’t speak. She simply simpered at him and pranced away down an aisle. He immediately grabbed a large cup and went for the coke. She suggested it, so he probably was going to like it! In the aisle right beside Chris, but two away from Aleks, Esme started whistling a familiar song that Aleks would be well aware of and randomly dropped things in her basket. She had a long day ahead of her, so he either took the bait or let it pass. The kids would be in for a surprise soon enough.

From the corner of his eye, Aleks watched AJ’s poor, malleable ass immediately select the Coke Icee like a simp. The woman looked at AJ with the note of glee universal among those who make successful food, fashion, or relationship recommendations - Aleks had just felt it himself, with how well their lunch at Rao’s had gone over - and went down the aisle, whistling to herself a song Aleks had learned well soon after arrival in America. It used to be one of his favorites.

He has kiiiilled Cleopatra, Cleopatra…

He switched playlists on his phone before leaving his aisle, two bottles of chocolate syrup in hand.

“I believe Cocoa Commies were knockoff cereal, brought to homeland to avoid temptation of the American Dogs and their Cocoa Krispies. My father says they tasted like Reeses Puffs,” he replied to Chris as he leapfrogged Chris’ aisle to reach the next one. Scanning the various bubblegum options on display, he took small, graceful sideways steps away from the end of the aisle and towards Esme. “What about Belikov Cocktail? A little egotistical?”

“Too pretentious, you should definitely call it The Leksi.” With her lollipop in her mouth, she went for a piece of random fruit bubblegum and unceremoniously opened it, placing two pieces in her mouth and the rest in her cart. Leaning her hand toward him, the one that held her sucker, she childishly offered the candy at the store, before putting her pop back in her mouth, “Want some?”

”Sure.” Aleks picked up two giant packs of gum, one peppermint, the other strawberry Trident. After a moment’s consideration he picked up some Bubble Tape too. His voice lowered to a quiet, accented purr. ”I don’t know why you bothered to come all this way. I got everything done before we left LA. I made sure. Did you forget to pack me a lunch, big sis? It’s cool, I do not mind.”

Interrupting Chris’ and Aleks’ conversation, AJ obnoxiously slurped his drink as he strolled down Chris’ aisle, “Yo, this just tastes like ice-y coke. I should’ve gotten wild cherry.”

I knew it.

“Dude… it’s a 7-Eleven… and we’re assholes.” Chris looked at AJ and shrugged. “Just go dump it out and fill the cup up with cherry instead.” They boys might be in a new city, but Chris would always be the same old Chris. Plus, it’s not like the acne plagued teenager behind the cash register was paying attention, and even if he was, ten bucks said he wouldn’t give a shit. “More importantly… cool ranch or nacho cheese?” He asked, pointing at the Doritos options. “Oh shit, they have Takis!”

“Buy them all. It’s a vacation, but I prefer nacho cheese.” After taking another sip of the coke slurpee, AJ dramatically sighed, “That’s a lot of effort, Chris. I just got here and now I gotta go back over there?”

Shrugging at Aleks hushed hushed tone, Esme ran her fingers on the snacks and teasingly smiled, “You might be seeing me more this lovely summer, if you don’t find something for me.” Gracefully, with an unbelievable amount of sex appeal, she looked toward the door where a big man waited for her in his car. “A flash drive Alejandro stole from his father.”

Aleks’ music felt like it was pounding in his ears. He didn’t even have to spare a look out to the front of the store for him to understand Esme’s body language, or the implicit warning therein.

“Spy movie bullshit,” he grumbled under his breath. “This has nothing to do with me. Sami and I have said fifty words to each other in our lives. Everyone brought flash drives with their laptops, too.”

He discreetly popped open the pack of strawberry gum and started to chew a piece over. Sure enough, the immediate rush of sugar, as well as the mechanical motions that came with chewing, started to calm the tongues of flame, licking away at his temper.

”What is on it--? No. Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know, I don’t care, if it isn’t cars it is not my business. You know that. Tell him that, too.”

Rolling her eyes, Esme turned to him, dropping the suggestive act that she was known for, and coldly glared at him, “It is your business if something happens to that—” she pointed to AJ, before snapping her gum, “—boy over there. Or his friends. This was pure coincidence. I saw you pull up here and thought I’d relay a message. I’m not paid to hurt you, I’m paid to protect you, but as far as Hyde knows, we both want the same thing.”

She shook her head in annoyance, knowing it was getting around the time where her impatient driver would start thinking she was up to something (which she was). “Now, make sure you’re all out of your rooms at eleven tonight. I doubt your friend has it in his luggage, he isn’t dumb. Then, meet me at the pool at 5:30 am. If you’re not there, expect us to follow you, this whole trip. Got it?” This wasn’t a request, this was a demand and Aleks would know just by the way she looked at him that this was serious and not a child’s game of tag or cat and mouse.

“My big sister, looking out for me,” Aleks grumbled quietly, letting out the same impatient exhale he had earlier at Val’s antics. This trip had been cursed from the start. He should have just listened to Chloe and gone to fucking Tokyo or Thailand, but noooo. He had wanted to see America. Cursed, empty fucking America. Cheap, tacky fucking America. He would have been better off doing a tour of the country’s fucking Wal-Marts. He took another deep breath and finally relented, “...Maybe. I’ll see what I can do. Do you have a burner?”

“Duh.” Just when she was going to slip it to him, AJ poked his head and she pretended to trip, dropping it with all her snacks in her basket. “Oh rats. Clumsy me.”

“Wild cherry is SO MUCH better! Hey Chris! Look. Told you she’s hot.” AJ watched her bend over as she scrambled to pick her things back up. Instead of a verbal reply, Chris followed AJ’s gaze and nodded in appreciation.

Aleks was crouched on the ground next to her, putting his gum and the phone in the pockets of the burnt leather jacket that had once belonged to AJ Tyler before Aleks had lit it aflame. He helped gather up a few of the snacks and placed them in her basket, springing to his full height of six feet again with a fluid motion, starting from the knees and stretching up.

“You’re braver than I am, wearing heels in a 7-11,” Aleks joked, in the playful, polite tone he normally used. “Have a good day, alright? Try Converse next time you shop. They’re chic again. And you keep your balance easier..”

“Not a chance, Leksi.” She grinned up at him and then went back to pretending that they were strangers. Standing up, with her high red stiletto heels, she thanked him and then walked away. When she was certain the other two were distracted, she dropped the basket on the floor, only taking the gum and quickly went through the register. Once the exchange was done, she hurriedly went back to the car. From the glass door, it could be seen that the man she was with was annoyed that all she bought was gum for how long she was in there. Impishly innocent, she shrugged and gestured to her watch. With that, they drove off. The coast was clear.

“Leksi, huh?” Chris raised an eyebrow at the russian. It was impressive how quickly he could hit on total strangers. They were there, what, five minutes? And suddenly he’s getting new pet names. “Should we be expecting her to stop by in the dark of the night or what?”

”I am sorry I have such a way with people,” Aleks deadpanned, chewing his gum innocently.

“Cosmos! Valentine! I’m ready to bounce.” AJ was already by the cash register piling the counter with all the bad goodies he decided was best to get for his suite.

You know who gave out the best nicknames?

HE DID.






A @GhostMami & @smarty0114 Collaboration
Featuring Wesley Slater & Bradley Barron


While Headmaster Wayman droned on about the virtues of building connections with your peers, Bradley found himself wondering what their benevolent dictator had been like as a teenager. Had people been friends with this strange man? He found that hard to believe. Had someone harbored a secret crush on him, completely unaware of the boring, grey figure he would later cut through life? Would Bradley one day find himself a colorless shape amidst a crowd that couldn’t care less about him? He really fucking hoped not.

That didn’t change the fact though, that this man, boring them all to death, had been a teenager himself once. He might’ve had big dreams, like… well honestly he couldn’t even begin to imagine what interested someone like Headmaster Wayman, but he couldn’t have dreamed of announcing a scavenger hunt to a bunch of bored kids, right?

Bradley’s existential crisis was cut short by the end of Headmaster Wayman’s announcements, and the shuffling that accompanied his peers exiting the auditorium. He glanced over at Wes, who’d slipped off into dreamland at some point during the assembly, and gently nudged him awake. “You missed a riveting performance,” he said with his usual dosage of sarcasm.

“Ss-herm?” Wesley startled awake with a strange combination of a hiss and moan. His nap-laden, blurry vision focused on Bradley’s face as he blinked with a sleepy smile. Wes brought a hand to his eyes to rub away the tiredness. “Quite contrary… I was eating fantastic barbeque in an award winning pit restaurant in Texas, which was probably waaaayy more riveting.” The students around them were starting to chatter and leave their seats, but Wesley stayed seated and leisurely stretched out in his auditorium chair. “But… what did I miss?”

“Oh, well, thanks for the invite,” Bradley said. Whatever traces of melancholy that had plagued him since this morning vanished as he watched Wes slowly but surely rejoin the real world. It was a routine he’d grown accustomed to over the last two months. “No class on Wednesday. We’re all getting into teams to do a scavenger hunt instead,” Bradley said, delivering the news with some half-hearted jazz hands, as if to say, “Can you fucking believe this place?”

“What, really?” Wesley’s eyebrows shot up with excitement. Wes loved games and competition, and a scavenger hunt sounded way more fun than going to class. Clearly his best friend was not as amused as he was. “Get hyped, B-rad. We’re totally gonna win! You, me, and Griffin —er— once we go pick him up, at least. Dream team, dude!”

Bradley grinned, made happy simply by seeing Wes’ excitement. He relished it for a moment, a part of him impressed by the way he took things in stride. “As fun as that sounds, Wayman said that teams are assigned, and I’m pretty confident the universe hates me too much to put that God-tier team together,” Bradley said.

“Oh…” Wes replied sadly, his shoulders sinking slightly. For a moment he looked like a deflating balloon a few days after the birthday party. But it wasn’t too long before he perked back up. “Well, if we aren’t on the same team, I guess I’ll have to kick your ass then, Barron.” Wes said with a grin and stood up quickly. “Either way, we gotta go fetch our dude.”

“That we do,” Bradley said, clapping his hands against his legs before standing up. The two boys had promised their third Musketeer, Griffin Pierce, that they’d be there when they finally discharged him from the medical building. For a week or two, all anyone could talk about was how he got wheeled out on some stretcher, but by now, most of the talk had subsided. Bradley, stoic as he was, could admit that it would be nice to have their friend back. It had been kinda weird without him, and maybe he could use a buffer between him and Wes. Someone to keep him from completely fucking everything up. “C’mon. We can check our teams on the way,” Bradley said, leading them into the back of the herd that was exiting the auditorium.

Wesley took a look at the teams announcement that all of the students were crowding around. It didn’t take long to find his own name, and consequently have his hopes of the dream team totally dashed. That said, this was an opportunity to make new friends, and he was competitive as hell — so they still had a shot at winning regardless of who these mystery teammates were. “Talya… that’s the stunner whose dorm is across from yours, isn’t it? Dope. Not sure who Savannah is, though.” He looked now for Bradley’s name. “Awe, man, you got Teddy and TJ, you lucky fuck!”

Bradley laughed at Wes’ description of Talya, though internally his stomach was wrapping itself into knots. “Tal’s cool. Savannah’s the one with the pink hair, kind of always looks like she’s about to run for the nearest exit? She’s chill too,” Bradley said, trying his best to ignore the pangs of jealousy. He focused his attention on the list, confirming what Wes had said about his team. Not bad, not bad. “Hate to break it to you, but I think my team’s gonna crush your team,” Bradley said, smirking.

“Oh now you're feeling big?” Wes teased and punched at his friends shoulder. “Where was that font of confidence and excitement a few minutes ago?” Having gathered all of the information they needed from the assembly, Wes headed for the doors. Once outside and en route to the medical center, Wes spun around on his heels to face Bradley. It was hard to believe that this ball of energy was just passed out cold, but that was Wesley's life — cycles of extreme on and extreme off, rinse and repeat. “OH! Have you heard about this weekend, dude?”

“Well, that was before I found out that I’d have a six foot four, man of muscle on my team,” Bradley shot back. As they stepped out into the evening, Bradley inhaled deeply, glancing over to where the last bits of sunlight were slipping away past the horizon. It was a nice night, the afternoon heat having dissipated, leaving a pleasant coolness in its place. Maybe he’d be able to convince Wes and Griffin to go out later. “What’s going on this weekend?” He asked, looking back at Wes.

“A party, that's what!” Wesley replied excitedly, flashing a stunning smile. “Like a proper high school party, not some school-sanctioned shit. San Agustin would certainly not approve.” He punctuated the sentence with a mischievous eyebrow wiggle and a pep in his step. “Pretty sure Erica and TJ are hosting, so you can probably get better deets, being teammates and all. Whadya say?” Wes looked at his friend expectantly, “Feeling like causing some trouble as my party date?”

“Yes!” Bradley said, quickly and with much more enthusiasm than usual. He hadn’t even had time to think about it before the agreement came tumbling out of his mouth. It only took a split second for him to piece together that Wes had meant date in a metaphorical sense, and not in the sense that the night could end with them making out. Because that was impossible. “I mean, yeah, yeah, it sounds fun. Maybe I can find out where they’re getting the booze from? Maybe there’s other kinds of contraband we can smuggle in,” he added, hoping to move quickly past his slip up.

Thankfully for Bradley, Wes was completely oblivious to the misunderstanding. He was just pumped for the party and the fact that his bestie was equally excited to go. Brad’s mention of further contraband also piqued his interest. “And that, my friend, is why we get along so well.” Wes said as he swung his arm over Bradley’s shoulders in a friendly gesture as they walked. “I like the way you think. Any ideas on what? And how?” The pair approached the threshold of the medical center and Wes thought twice about their conversation. “On second thought, let’s put this discussion on pause until after we get Griffin.” He leaned in closer and whispered the next part, eyeing the security camera at the entrance, Big brother’s always watching. Wes parted from Bradley’s side after that with what would be a stoner giggle, except he’d never smoked a day in his life. At least, not yet.

Bradley looked up at the security camera, fixing his gaze on the lens for a few moments, Wes’ words running in a loop through his head. “Good call,” he said, returning his eyes to the entrance. There’d be time for plotting the vandalism of their school later.




Most of her fellow students had already gone crying to mommy and daddy about the recent events at college following the Bash she had missed out on. Shiloh, however, had not yet. It wasn’t that she was afraid to, far from it, her parents probably wouldn’t give two shits about it. It was mostly that she just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. She instead was focusing on her classes and getting ready for the school year to start in full swing after recovering from her cold.

Now was probably as good as time as any, sitting at her desk beating her face for a night out with the boys. With any luck the night would involve more than just the boys… a girl would be nice, but time would tell. With dark eyeshadow applied to only one of her eyelids so far, Shi dialed her dad on Facetime and sat the phone back down on her desk, propped up at an angle towards her face.

After a few rings, the dark curly haired, middle-aged rocker answered. “Hey BettySketty, the hell you doing going a whole week without talking to your old man?!” He greeted in his familiar, excitable tone. Wes Clay had a way of talking that made it seem like he was always just about to tell you the craziest, most outlandish news… when in reality he was just shooting the shit with you.

Shiloh turned from her mirror to smile into the phone, makeup brush in hand as she paused from application. “Hey Pops, sorry, I’ve been... busy.”

“Holy shit, I’ll say. Busy getting punched in the eye, looks like.” Ah yes, glorious dad jokes. How would she ever survive a single semester without them?

Rolling her eyes, Shiloh shook her head and laughed. “Woww you’re soooo funny. If you guys get tired of Mutiny, maybe you could go on the road as a comedy show instead.” She replied sarcastically and went back to applying her makeup. “Is mom around?”

“Awe, what? Is unfunny dad not good enough?” Wes replied with a mock pout.

“Ha, no. It’s just that I wanted you both here to talk about this.”

Wes’ jokester mood immediately shifted to paternal concern. “She’s at work still. Why? What’s going on, Betts?”

“Well, I don’t know if the school e-mailed you guys or whatever. But the whole junior class got put on academic probation because there was a big party last weekend and there was a fight and it all got recorded and posted by some narc.”

Wes was quiet for a few moments. Long enough for Shiloh to look away from the mirror to check if he was actually upset or something. “Damn, did you at least have a lot of fun at the party?” That was the dad she knew, all was well.

“I wish… I didn’t go. I had strep throat, remember?”

“Oh shit, right. What the hell then, and you’re being punished anyway?”

“Yeah. Well, kinda. I asked Theo about what academic probation even is, I thought it was a jock thing. But it seems like as long as I keep my grades up and remain on my ‘best behavior’ I should be fine.” She said, air quoting best behavior. They both knew that Shiloh never had best behavior, it just wasn’t in her DNA.

“Well, even if you don’t, Betts, you’ll be fine. I know that school was your top choice, but if they want to pull some kind of shit like that and actually expel students over parties they didn’t even go to, then there are plenty of other colleges out there that would be lucky to have you. Your mom and I support you no matter what, you know that.”

“Yeah, I figured. Which is why I didn’t rush to tell you like everyone else here seemed to do with their parents. With the amount of extra rich and annoying Karens and Kevins that are probably flooding the administrations inboxes, I doubt this is even going to last.”

“Ugh, wouldn’t want that job.” Wes replied jokingly and lit a cigarette on the other end of the line. “I see you’re taking the best behavior thing seriously... where you lookin’ to go cause trouble tonight?”

Shiloh was finished with her makeup now, twisting the mascara wand back into the tube. Looking back to her phone, she explained, “Not sure, some bar or club. I’m meeting up with Theo and Connor in a few.” Shi tapped her phone to see what time it was. “Actually, I should probably hang up now, I still have to get dressed and head to the manor.”

“Alright, be safe and knock ‘em dead, Black Betty.”

“Always, love you!” Shiloh replied and hung up the call. Rushing towards her closet, she selected her dress for the evening. It was a simple draped black fabric dress that hung close to her body and had cut outs exposing the sides of her stomach. She paired the dress with some bangle bracelets and topped the ensemble with her signature pink and black leather jacket. An outfit wasn’t properly Shi-ified without a punk touch. Heading out the door, she sent out a text in the group chat with her, Theo, and Connor.

To: The Three Musketeers
leaving now
ill be at the manor in 5





Location | Cafeteria

Wesley really wasn’t trying to stare at Teddy. That would be rude, and Wes tried his best not to be rude. Meddlesome? Yes. Problematic? At times. Mischievous? Most definitely. But outright rude? Never! That was no way to make friends. That said… he couldn’t help that his eyes kept wandering back to his shirtless, hunky friend. Concentrating on his protein-packed breakfast, he prayed to any gods that there might be for some kind of distraction.

This blessing came in the form of a fashionable and somewhat flashy woman with long braided hair. Wes recognized her from around the halls, but they had never been properly introduced. Thankfully, the charismatic girl made quick work of rectifying that. “Well gooood morning, you two! Theo, lookin' good as always. How are you two doing this morning? Oh, I'm Zakya, by the way... if you didn't already know. I don't think we've ever been formally introduced or anything like that. But I see you around all the time!”

“Likewise, nice to finally meet you. Zakya’s a cool name, I’m Wes.” He replied with a wave and flashed one of his prize winning smiles. He couldn’t help but notice that her eyes were mostly on his breakfast companion. Not that he could blame her, so were his only a few moments ago. Teddy greeted her in return and explained his shirtlessness by stating that they had just gone on a run. Zakya seemed to act like it was no big thing, probably not caring why he was shirtless and just glad that he was shirtless. Once again, he couldn’t blame her there.

“Word on the street is there's gonna be a party this Friday night... hosted by those lovely ladies over there. You two plan on attending? Cause you definitely should!” Her eyes lit up as she dished the scoop on an upcoming party.

“Oh? ...Yeah maybe… what do you think Wes? Was Teddy’s lackluster response.

“What do you mean maybe?” Wesley’s eyebrows knitted together in confusion. It was as if his friend just said that he didn’t like ice cream or something. Everyone likes ice cream, even lactose intolerant people! “Hell yeah I’m going, this sounds like the most exciting thing to ever hit this campus. Literally. Do you think they’ll manage to get booze?” The wheels were already turning in the troublemaker’s mind.

“I’ll spread the word, hopefully it’ll be a banger. Anyway, I gotta get to class.” The lanky teen stood up and grabbed his lunch tray. “Catch ya later, Teddy, and nice to meet ya, Z.” He said with a wave goodbye and made his way to the trash to empty his tray.

Now empty handed, Wes walked over to his lab partner’s breakfast table, where he was still chatting with his friends. “Yo, Leo!” He greeted the jock. “You coming to class? We’re probably already late, man. But more importantly, have you heard about the party this weekend?”







Perhaps volunteering to drive the RV had been a bit… premature of him. Chris couldn’t help it, he saw a friend in need and he had to help, so his mouth just went ahead and offered to drive before his brain could catch up. AJ was in no shape to drive after Val’s swift kick. His boy needed a break to sleep it off, or something like that. So here Chris was, sitting behind the wheel of the largest vehicle he had ever operated. Seriously, aside from his mom’s old honda civic that he learned to drive on, he pretty much solely stuck to his motorcycle. This tank was much larger than a bike… and a civic.

That said, with Chris being a gearhead through and through, driving the RV went completely smooth. No rich kids died in the making of this road trip. AJ had passed out in the passenger seat, clearly comfortable enough to do so. All was well, and the rag-tag group of gearfits arrived at the Bellagio right on schedule. Chris leaned down to take in the sight of the place through the windshield and remarked a simple, “Damn.” This place was swanky as fuck.

“Aight, everyone get the fuck out. I need to park this thing and stretch my legs.” He instructed. His words were harsh, but his tone was friendly enough. He was excited to properly get this show on the road, and it was starting to show through his rough exterior. Once all of the teens piled out onto the sidewalk with their luggage in tow, Chris put the beast in gear and dialed in the address of this temporary parking area on the GPS.

AJ had offered to come along with Chris to park the RV, but he assured him that he’d be fine on his own. He would use the alone time to relax, decompress, and have a smoke outside. AJ’s compromise was to at least pay for Chris’ lift back to the hotel, which the punk happily accepted. Who the fuck knows how much an Uber in Las Vegas costs anyway, it would probably be obscene.

Chris lit up a Marlboro as he waited outside the temporary lot for his ride to show up. Staring out at the streets, Chris exhaled a stream of smoke as he took in the skyline of the strip in the distance. Shit, he was really out here in Vegas right now. Who would have thought making friends with a kid at a street race would lead to this? He took another drag and smiled gratefully at his situation as a sleek black car rolled up to the curb. Seeing the light in the windshield, Chris flicked his cigarette to the ground and stomped it out before hopping into the backseat.

“The Bellagio, huh?” The driver asked after a few minutes spent in traffic. The question was accompanied by an inquisitive raised eyebrow that Chris caught in the rearview mirror. He smirked, of course there was doubt.

“Yeah…” Chris responded as he watched the wide variety of people out on the street through the window. “Landed me a rich girl with a bad boy fetish, we’re gonna have a good time.” He lied smoothly. Why lie? Why the fuck not? Plus, maybe there was something to that whole ‘speak it into existence’ mentality. Anything’s possible in the span of a teenage summer, right?

The driver nodded and laughed. “Good deal man, good deal.”

The rest of the ride was silent up until they pulled up to the hotel and said their goodbyes. Twirling the RV keys around his index finger, Chris walked up to the valet man waiting at the front door entrance. “Hey man, where should I turn in keys for vehicles to be picked up from the Uber-Lyft pick up point?” The well-dressed worker instructed him that the valet office desk was right through the glass doors and immediately on the left. Nodding, Chris made his way inside and laid the keys down at said desk. The woman behind the counter asked for the name of who would be picking the keys for the vehicle up. “Uh… Sonya Kable. Make sure to ask for ID, this thing is worth more than my actual human life, so I’m not gonna be responsible for it getting stolen.” The woman laughed politely and assured him that it was their policy to always check IDs. “Thanks, Linda.” Chris replied, tapping the desk twice with his hand before turning to enter the hotel lobby fully.

The place was massive and marbled, with opulent gold accents. It looked like a scene straight out of a movie — in fact, Chris immediately thought of the Continental from John Wick. The leather-jacket clad teen most definitely looked out of place as he looked around, mouth agape. He took a moment to shoot a text to AJ asking which room he should head to before walking towards the elevators in the back right side of the lobby.

“Can I help you, sir?” One of the women, a blonde, at the front desk asked as he passed by. He turned to look up from his phone to be greeted by her somewhat judgmental looking gaze. Chris’ eyebrows knitted in confusion, “Oh, no. I’m just heading up to my room. Already checked in, thanks.” He offered a fake smile and turned on his heel back towards the elevators.

“And… which room is that?” She asked with an equally fake smile as his back was to her. You gotta be fucking kidding me… Chris thought to himself and took a moment to silently grind his teeth before turning to respond to the obvious grilling.

“Dunno,” He shrugged, letting his arms swing out wide at his sides. “I just texted my buddy to get the room number.” He replied honestly, but he could already tell where this train of questioning was headed.

“What’s your buddy’s name? I can look it up in the system for you.” Another fake customer service smile.

“AJ—A-Alfie Tyler.” He corrected with an awkward stutter, realizing AJ’s full name was probably needed.

After a few seconds of tapping on her keys, the blonde smirked proudly as if she’d just won a massive bet. “We don’t have any rooms listed under that name.”

“What?!” Chris asked incredulously. Was she playing a fucking game right now? Just as she looked like she was about to call for security, he threw his hands up in surrender. “I’ll call him, alright? I’ll have him come down, chill, jesus…” Chris aggressively tapped through his contacts to ring AJ.

“Hey man, can you come down?” Chris asked as soon as the line picked up. “These assholes—” He made a point of glaring directly at the blonde front desk worker. “—at the front desk think I’m too poor to be here and plan on stealing their sparkling water or some shit. Let’s go get some food before my hunger makes me really make a scene right now, because I’m feeling a little bit profiled, not gonna lie.”











It was later into the night and the scene at The Pit was really coming alive. Well, it was coming alive like a creature crawling out of a swamp… like a corpse rising from the grave to embark on it’s unlife. Coming alive in a way that only a place like the Pit could. The crowd was keeping Jed and Robin busy with their various and copious drink orders.

Darcy requested some shots, stating that she was going to need them. “Coming right up, Dee.” Robin replied, grabbing the bottom shelf tequila. Only the best for the regular Pit denizens. “Shots up for Darcy and Logan” She called out, placing the shot glasses on the bar after Logan had requested some as well.

Bea ordered a Screaming Orgasm and Robin was about to make a witty remark before Kip beat her to the punchline. She knew there was a reason that she took a liking to that one. “Here’s an orgasm you won’t have to fake, babes. Enjoy it.” Robin said with a wink as she served the drink up.

Meanwhile, some southern belle attempted to flirtatiously order a water, of all things, from Jed. “Daring… aren’t we?” Robin said under her breath, but also not caring all too much if she was heard. Life was too short to give a shit about people overhearing your shit talk.

Lolly’s gentleman caller left the bar in record timing thanks to Darcy’s shenanigans. Ah yes, just another night at the Pit. Jed mentioned pissing in Dee’s glass and Robin chuckled. “Ehh, it’d probably taste better than our tequila, to be fair.” As if on cue, Darcy saddled up to the bar again, this time ordering a beer to wrap her lips around. “Coming right up, though I’m sure there’s plenty of other fun things you could find for them lips, sweets.” Robin jested, sliding the brown bottle down the bar to Darcy.

Just when she thought the night couldn’t get more lively, Bea spit up her orgasm on some greasy rando. Somehow, she managed to make the dude’s hair look even worse. Robin’s attention from the scene was broken by the sudden blast of music from the jukebox. People hardly ever actually put money in that thing to change the songs when their scarce coin was preferably spent buying bottom of the barrel booze. Some newcomer, at least she seemed new, was sensually dancing at the machine. “Looks like it’s about time for my smoke break, Jed.” Or a dance break. Or both. Robin tossed the towel she was using to wipe the bar down in a bucket and made her leave from behind the bar.


Just to let everyone else know, since Brutal already knows-

I work in the ER at a major hospital and life is extremely hectic right now. BUT, thankfully it is beginning to slow down some. So I'll be able to post more regularly as the weeks go by.


Thanks for doing your very important work! No worries, stay safe and sane out there!




A @GhostMami & @spooner Collaboration
Featuring Wesley Slater & Theodore Wallstrom


Wesley jogged along the trail he usually took around the San Augustin campus. The trees were very pretty at this time of year, turning from their vibrant summer green to a more warm yellow in the fall. That said, it was still hot as hell in New Mexico, even at the end of October, it was almost 75 degrees. Wes took a break to catch his breath and fan out his hoodie to try to get some air flow to his sweaty torso. Bending over at the waist and huffing, he contemplated why the hell he thought it was a good idea to wear a jacket while running. Stupid arms.

Having his headphones in, Wes didn’t hear the approaching footfalls of another jogger as he took his little five second breather. The sudden appearance of one very large man at his side caused Wesley to jump in surprise. “Jesus! Shit!” Wes exclaimed and raised a hand to his chest as his already-increased heart rate began to pump in overdrive. “How’s it going, man? You scared me, I was… in the zone. This playlist you recommended is dope.”

Teddy couldn’t do much else than to smile down apologetically at his friend. “I’m good… good good.” He stretched his tired body. “Just a bit groggy still you know?” he yawned. “Oh, hell yeah! I’m glad you liked it!” His smile grew larger. “How about you, how are you holding up?” he asked as they jogged along at a leisurely pace.

“Saammee” Wesley agreed with Theo’s statement of grogginess. His body protested as he began to jog again alongside Teddy, but he pushed through it. He had someone around now that he had to make sure to look cool in front of, keep up with the big guys and fit in. Survival of the fittest… literally. Plus, it was good for him to push himself! “I woke up in my bean bag this morning, so I guess my body decided that was my bed for the night. I could sleep for like 8 more hours, at least.”

The pair jogged past a nice little pond where there were some ducks floating along. Wesley got the sudden instinct to go chase them but managed to fight it back and shook his head. Chasing ducks would not be cool. “So, what do you think today’s assembly is about?” He asked instead, trying to make himself forget about the ducks.

“Bean bag huh?” Teddy mused letting out a little laugh. “I don’t think I would fit on one of those,” he let out a louder booming laugh. His brows furrowed at the mention of the assembly, he had always hated those things. “Dude, I don’t know… or even care,” he said shrugging his shoulders as they ran along. “Something stupid I bet… something that they are probably forcing on us.”

When they came back around to the courtyard his stomach growled loudly as they stopped in front of the cafeteria building. Teddy’s face was leaking with sweat so he decided to take off his shirt and use it as a makeshift towel swiping it all over his face before hanging it around his shoulder. “You want to get some food?” he asked, breathing heavily pointing towards the entrance.

“Oh my god, YES.” Wesley reacted with utter glee at the mention of breakfast. His stomach practically started doing backflips in joy. “I could eat a whole cow! I always wake up hella hungry, but this morning is something extra. I want, like, a double cheeseburger. They probably won’t have that for breakfast though…” The lanky boy’s shoulders sagged in disappointment as the pair headed into the cafeteria.

The disappointment was soon replaced by a roaring hunger as the wonderful culinary aromas greeted them at the door. Wesley scanned his badge and went to go retrieve his pre-assigned tray of food. “Isn’t it kind of weird that they decide what we eat? Like… that’s gotta be illegal or something...” The aspiring future lawyer mused quietly to Theodore. That said, he was entirely pleased with the tray of food that was presented to him. It was no double cheeseburger, but it was a healthy helping of sausage, bacon, eggs, and a buttered english muffin. And the eggs were just like he liked them too — barely fried and extra drippy — also what some might call entirely undercooked. “Oh, sick, drippy eggs!” He said, thanking the lunch lady that provided him with them.

“Yeah… but I mean there really is a lot about this place that doesn’t make sense” Teddy lamented as he too swiped his student card and his own breakfast was handed to him. On his plate, there was a nice piece of grilled salmon and roasted grains with a side of fresh fruit. “But at least they always seem to give us just what we need.” He could feel his mouth water as the pair made their way over to an empty table.

As he sat down on his chair the cold plastic reminded him that he was in fact not wearing a shirt. It was too late for him to care at this point, so Teddy just grabbed his shirt from his shoulders and hung it on the empty chair beside him before digging into his nice piece of fish.

Wesley plopped down in his chair with lightning speed. He was sweaty and felt gross but this food was going to be oh-so-delicious. Eggs were his favorite, so he ripped a piece of english muffin and dunked it into the runny yolk before popping the morsel into his hungry mouth. Chewing feverishly he swallowed and then stabbed up a piece of sausage with his fork before looking up at his friend for the first time since before they’d walked into the cafeteria together. The hulking bear of a man was sitting there, calmly eating his own breakfast in all his glistening, shirtless glory. With a sausage link still hovering on a fork in front of his lips, Wes stared with his mouth agape. “Uhh….” Wesley uttered in a lust-swept stupor. “Theo? Your… clothes?”

“Hmm?” Teddy was too focused on the plate in front of him to hear what his friend had said. He looked up to see Wes staring at him. “Oh… uh yeah sorry,” he said touching his shirt, it was still wet with sweat. “I just feel a little gross putting it back on, I will if it’s awkward for you though,” he offered, looking around the cafeteria seeing that some of their peers were actually looking at them. He realized that his friend might not be as comfortable as him with eating without a shirt on.

“No! It’s…” Play it cool, Wes. Quick recovery, witty remark, say something! “You do you, man, it’s fine.” He carefully concentrated on his food rather than the increasing number of eyes that were probably on them. You know, just two guys… eating breakfast together… in various states of dress. Wesley mustered up enough confidence to shrug and take a bite out of the hovering sausage link, “It’s a good look for you.” He said as nonchalantly as he could while chewing.








Robin had been the first person to arrive at The Pit this Friday night. Unsurprising, as she lives in the rat’s nest of an apartment above it. She’d spent the better part of the afternoon napping because she’d been ridiculously tired the past few days. That said, she’d gotten up with plenty of time to doll herself up before her shift. Fridays are good tipping nights, even at a dive like The Pit. She busted out some tight leather pants and a matching corset for the occasion, leaving an ample amount of cleavage and her toned drummer’s arms exposed for ogling purposes. Hungry eyes meant opened wallets, and she had both Rig and Jed around just in case any customers tried to get too forward or handsy because of the way she dressed. It was a perfect system, really.

Opening up for the night, she clicked on the television and wiped the bar off in anticipation of her first customers. They usually liked watching whatever seasonal sports game was on. A few hours passed and the bar really started to come alive. Amidst the growing crowd, an unexpected face appeared in the door: Kip. She hadn’t seen him in, jeeze, that must have been about a month ago?

“I’ll take a shot and beer and one for yourself” He said as he saddled up to the bar.

“Welcome back, Kip” She smirked in reply and grabbed a pint glass to begin filling it with his favorite beer on tap. “You know I can’t drink behind the bar.” Or at all, given her age. Even still, she grabbed two shot glasses and poured them both some whiskey. “Buuuttt... this is a special occasion.” She said with a wink, passing him his drinks so that they could tip back their shots in unison. “Give me a sec to help out the other guests, but I wanna hear all about Japan, alright?” Robin said quickly before looking to Bennet, who also just arrived and sat next to Kip.

“I’m assuming I’m starting you a tab, Bennyboy?” She asked with a snarky eyebrow raised. She knew the answer before he even responded and went off to go get his drink. Despite the noisy nightlife, she also heard his comment about their one time hook up and rolled her eyes while her back was turned to him. There was a reason it was only one time, Bennyboy. At the back of her mind, she wondered what Kip would think about that comment… Eh, whatever, free love and all that.

“Double captain, Bigs? Or you gonna switch it up on me?” She asked The Pit’s permanent fixture of a regular as he arrived and took his usual perch at the end of the bar. Lolly made an appearance with her latest victim and they were being helped by her co-bartender, Jed. Robin was nosey and liked stirring up trouble, so she made her way over to them after giving Douglas his double of rum.

“Who’s this, Lols? Robin asked in a purr and looked the man over. The poor fucker had no business being in a place like this, but his money was just as good, if not better, than anyone else’s here, if only because he had more of it to spend. “Lookin’ like hubby material, he is.” The flirtation had no actual emotional investment associated, it was just the practiced charisma of a young female bartender at it’s finest. Sex sells, baby.





A @BrutalBx, @GhostMami & @Rosalia Collaboration
Featurning Sami Alejandro, Chris Reyes & Valeria Drake


Chris and Katie watched with laughter as Aleks stuffed buns into his mouth as if he’d been starved all his life up until now. Of course, Chris knew that was far from the truth, as he’d seen Aleks put more food away than one could expect for a body his size… and lord help you if you were around him when he got hangry. Everything had been going well, the olive branch had gone swimmingly and Katie turned out to be a pretty cool chick. The conversation had been so easy breezy that Chris had all but forgotten the feuding pair in the RV… right up until their presence was made violently known for all to see.

Val stormed out of the RV followed by an incapacitated AJ tumbling to the ground, clutching his crotch. Jesus Christ, what on earth did he say to her to warrant that? The thought came and went quickly, Chris knew his best friend well enough, AJ had a knack for saying overly harsh shit in the heat of the moment. There was a slight possibility that he might have deserved it… but he also knew Val well, and she could be dramatic as hell. They both could be, which makes it a real miracle that they haven’t killed each other yet in all these years.

The severely out of place punk watched helplessly as AJ crumpled, Val ran, Aleks went to AJ and, instead of anyone going after Val, a few of the peanut gallery members sought it fit to make snarky remarks about her. How helpful. “Ahh...shit…” Chris remarked through a deep sigh. Katie called him Christopher and looked like she was about to head elsewhere as well. “Hold these for a sec, actually, pass em out, please?” He handed the bag of bread and jam to Katie before she flitted away, hoping that she might be able to distract the gawkers with food. Unlikely, but worth a try.

Looking in the direction that Val had darted off, Chris saw Sami taking off after her. Good, at least someone else was being useful. Of course it was Sami, too, that leather-clad saint. Knowing that the latino would catch up to her without much trouble, Chris took the time to glare at Ava and Reyna. “You know, if you guys weren’t going to help, the least you could have done was shut the fuck up.” Ah well, so much for the whole “I’m not an asshole” claim. You can take the kid out of the streets, but… “This is supposed to be a damn vacation, no need to pour gas on the fire, ladies.”

Shaking his head in disappointment, Chris turned and jogged after Sami and Val. He saw that Sami had caught her and had his arms around her. He wondered momentarily if she would be comforted by that, or if Sami would be next in the Sore Nuts Club because of it. Chris waited for them to part, but made his presence known by clearing his throat. “Where you runnin’ to, V?”

“Home!” the girl had immediately shrieked, blinking back the hot tears of fury threatening to roll down her cheeks. Her chubby face was red with anger, lips tightly pressed together in a pout while a deep crease seemed to have etched itself between her eyebrows. If you looked closely enough or were holding her (like Sami obviously was), you could see that her small, petite figure was shaking: that was never a good sign. “I’m not going anywhere with bitches I don’t even like in the first place! And if you guys really cared about me, you wouldn't try to convince me to stay anywhere near them. So don’t bother wasting your breath and just let me go back home!"

“Val..” Saint Sami tightened his hug on the glaring little fireball and placed a chin on top of her head. “You know we can’t let you do that mama.” Cuban (Not Baby) Yoda was not much taller than Val as he only stood 5’9 and was not the bronzed Adonis type that walked around the Beverly Hills High School like it was going out of fashion. He was a compact built bruiser made for fighting, fucking, and cooking, not necessarily in that order. It made him ostracised from day one. Sure, he had AJ, but the Tyler man always had something else going on. It wasn’t until he crossed paths with Valeria in the school parking lot that he made his first true friend.

“If you were to leave-- which you aren’t but if you were-- what am I going to do? There’s only so many times I can deal with Shirtless Leon or a dramatic Nate. What about Chris? My God, what if I have to listen to him drivel on about Aces and his love for her? Shit, can you imagine it when we turn on her show? Waterworks! And who will watch Edenridge with me? I need to know what happens to Lanie and Roddy’s baby? And that’s just the superficial things.” Sami shot a look over to Chris as if to call out: a little help, bro!

Chris shot a glare at Sami the “saint” when he mentioned Aces, while Val let out the first snicker of the morning. That was a sensitive subject. “I don’t—” He couldn’t say that he didn’t love her, the words jammed in his throat like an LA traffic pile up. Love in and of itself was terrifying — but loving a barely recovering drug addict, paired with his own addictive personality: Destructive with a capital D. “Whatever, not the point.” He looked to Val now, his almond eyes soft with affection for his best friend and one time lover. “For real, though, you can’t go home already. I’ve never been able to go on a trip like this… and I might never get to again, and it’s supposed to be a trip with ALL of my best friends. If you leave now, I’m a best friend short, and that’s a whole lotta suck ass. C’mon, don’t think of it as a going with them, you’re going with us.” Chris said, gesturing to Sami and himself — as if they were the most irresistible pair.

Between Sami’s warm embrace, his funny back and forth with Chris, and both boys’ gentle words, the two had made heaps of progress with the once-furious Val. The girl was visibly calmer now: her breath no longer labored, her body no longer shaking and her face no longer scrunched up in anger. Yet, as much as she appreciated their brave efforts, she remained unconvinced that her presence at this road trip was indispensable.

“You can still have fun without me,” Val insisted, still being every bit as bullheaded as only she could be. “I’m just going to be a little party-pooping black cloud anyway. Nobody wants that lingering around, right? Soooooooo, how about you guys just let me go back home? The two of you can join the rest of the group. Just head on out, have fun, and when you all come back my select group of trusted people can all go on our own little adventure somewhere else-- just the few of us. No ugly surprises or half-truths or withholden information. I’ll make sure to plan every detail and keep out the people I don’t like.”

Sami shot Chris a glance and sighed through his nose. Freeing Val from his arms, Papi Sami placed his hands onto his hips. “Val, I’m not coming back,” He didn’t want to have to play this card but he felt like there was little choice at this point.

Wait, what?! The girl's eyes immediately widened in shock, and all previous anger about whatever had happened before took a backseat to this unexpected revelation. “W-what do you mean, 'you're not coming back'?” she asked him, her face a mask of worry while her voice was dripping with concern.

“At least not right away. There’s a lot of shit going on right now and it’s best that I just get outta here. I got some money together and the plan is to just disappear somewhere that I like. So it’s quite simple, hermosa; you’re coming on this damn trip so I can fucking say goodbye. Now suck it up, shut your mouth, wiggle your ass and go drool over the shirtless one or I’m swinging you over my shoulder and tying you up with your favorite pair of yoga pants.”

The brick house of a boy had not revealed his plan to anyone, though that was typical of Sami. He was quiet and resolute; like an old oak tree that stood at the side of the road. You drive past it every day; you forget it’s there but once in a while there’s a storm and you’re reminded how strong it is.

“So are we doing this or not?”

While the girl bit her lip in hesitation, Chris heard Sami’s words but reacted with a bit less surprise than Val. Sami had spent the past week on his living room couch, and then he disappeared in the middle of the night last night. Intuition said that something was up, and Chris knew there was a lot of trouble in Sami’s life, so of course he was going to use this trip as an escape route. Chris nodded in agreement with Sami’s question and looked to Val with a smirk. “You gotta admit, getting tied up sounds kinda fun, don’t it?” He asked her with a quick wink.

“Only if you're the one doing the tying…” the girl said instinctively, mischievously wiggling her eyebrows with a little smirk of her own, and responding in the usual way she would to Chris whenever it was just the two of them making jokes about the one night they spent together. But as soon as she realized what she had said and how it could come across to Sami, she flushed, eyes wide with panic. “Shit, sorry!” Val apologized to her muscled friend, thinking on her feet for a good excuse. “We just, uh, joke around like that sometimes. Right?” she rambled, looking at Chris in a silent plea for assistance.

“Of course, why you blushin’?” Chris responded, playing it much more cool than Val was. He even gave her a friendly fist bump to the shoulder. “You don’t need to hide your secret crush on me. Sami’s not the jealous type, are you, Papi?” Wiggling his eyebrows at Sami with a look in his eyes that begged ‘just go with it’. “There’s enough of Chris to go around for all.” He turned back to face Val, “And the only way to get a slice is if you come along on this trippp.” Puppy dog eyes activated.

The short girl rolled her eyes, momentarily distracted from the worry of her and Chris’ secret being exposed. The few people that really knew Valeria Drake were aware of just how loyal she was to her friends. No matter the time or circumstance, she would always be one of the few people you could count on to have your back through thick and thin regardless of the consequences. Even if she was stubborn, grouchy, moody or whatever else people who didn’t know her might say, she had an undeniable soft spot for those she held close to her very well-guarded heart. And in instances like this, two of those special individuals were taking advantage of that secret chip in the armor. Leave it to her friends to resort to guilt-tripping in order to get her to change her mind.

“You guys know that I know right?” Sami started, while Val's embarrassed eyes immediately shifted to the ground. “Do you two honestly think I wouldn’t figure out that you fucked? Dios mio! I figured it out before you two even got on your backs and did the good thing. I mean for God's sake I put you on the bike! Honestly, it’s like you kids don’t know me at all.” Within the light heartedness there was a twinge of sadness; sometimes Sami did question how well his friends knew him. He knew everything about them, literally everything, yet could even one of them answer the question of what was Sami’s favourite color? There was no doubt, much doubt…

Yet before Val could react with something other than a scarlet blush on her cheeks and a few incomprehensible words, the Latino put his arm around her once again and smiled. “Now come on, let’s go back, get out on that road, and cause some fucking mischief.”

As much as she wanted to be a heartless, selfish bitch and leave, there was no way Valeria would ever turn her back on her friends-- even in something as dumb as a road trip. Sure, she was prideful and arrogant, but she was also aware that if it ever came down to it, Sami and Chris would make the same sacrifice for her as she would be doing for them. And what kind of friend would she be by putting a damper in the plans they had been looking forward to for so long? In the end, it was safe to say that, if they wanted this trip to be a real success, they needed her as much as she needed them.

Fueled by that relentless loyalty, the short girl wrapped her arms around both young men and locked them in a tight, affectionate group hug. “I love you, you assholes,” she muttered, giving each guy a kiss on the cheek before releasing them from the embrace. “Fine: I’ll go. But if I end up tossing Emilia out of a window or throwing hands with Reyna or Ava at any point, don’t say I didn’t warn you both.”

Chris considered the prospect of a good old fashioned girl-on-girl catfight and nodded. “Don’t threaten me with a good time.”

And with a sharp smack against the back of his head, Val confirmed that all was right in the world again.

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